In Defense of Tirion Fordring (Part I)
“I need you to know that what I did, I did for honor’s sake. Honor is an important part of what makes us men, Taelan. Our words and deeds must count for something in this world.”
– Tirion Fordring, Of Blood and Honor
There are some figures in the World of Warcraft people love to hate. Garrosh Hellscream, Varian Wrynn, and Rhonin Redhair are the just some of them, and for the most part it is fairly easy to see the aspects of these characters people don’t like. There must be some people out there who like them though. At least one or two. They are probably reading all the rants and jokes about these characters and wondering exactly why people don’t like them. Why don’t they see them the same way you do? That’s the way I always feel about Tirion Fordring.
Tirion is a character I have long admired and I was ecstatic when he was included as a central figure in Wrath of the Lich King. Yet people found him arrogant, stupid, and pointless. They asked why he got to have the Ashbringer, why he gets statues of him everywhere, and why in the world would he be stupid enough to set up a tournament at the glacial edge of Icecrown? Well, as is my role in finding ways to explain things that are otherwise unexplainable, I will try to answer these questions and more before we are though.
However, opinions are a hard thing to change. People stand by them rigidly and then get offended if you try to change their mind. They shout “You should respect my opinion!” and then throw things at me. It’s happened more often than I can recall (on account of all the concussions I get from having things thrown at me.) For that reason, I’m assuming that I won’t be changing any opinions. I’m not even going to go into any elaborate arguments. I’m going to tell you about Tirion, why I respect him, and my own views on why things happened the way they did. If you agree with me, that’s wonderful. If you don’t, what can you do. Maybe you’ll find something interesting along the way and see things a bit differently and still not come to the same conclusion as me. I have no idea, and I make no promises.
Originally, this was going to be one very large post. However, I decided to split it up. Part one will mostly be dealing with the back story for Tirion Fordring. What he has accomplished and how he became the man he is. The ideas presented in this part one, and my views of this man, will form the basis of part two, in which I explain my views on the events of Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm.
The Man With The Silver Hand
If we are to speak of Tirion Fordring, than we should start at the beginning, or at least the earliest records we can find. I have heard people often wonder exactly what about Tirion could command such respect from organizations like the Argent Dawn, the Kirin Tor, or even the Knights of the Ebon Blade. That Tirion hasn’t done anything to command this respect from people. Yet, without hesitation, people will stand up and defend the name of Uther the Lightbringer. Even sworn, die-hard members of the Horde will honor the name the Lightbringer (Okay, not so much the Forsaken. They are actually more so fond of desecrating the memory of Uther.) One of the reasons that Uther was such a prominent and well-respected figure was that he was one of the first paladins in the Knights of the Silver Hand, trained by Archbishop Alonsus Faol along the other original members of the order like Saidan Dathrohan (Dead), Gavinrad the Dire (Dead), Turalyon (No one has a clue where he is) and Tirion Fordring.
Yes, you read that right, Tirion Fordring was one of the original founding members of the Knights of the Silver Hand, and the only one alive and present. Which is probably why he garners as much respect as he does from the NPCs. He is a legend, like Uther, only not dead. So, like a living legend. Of course, Tirion wasn’t part of the defense of Lordaeron during the Third War with Uther, Saidan, and Gavinrad. There were complications in that matter due to a small incident that happened a few years before the Cult of the Damned began sinking their talons into the Eastern Kingdoms.
Of Politics and Honor
The Knights of the Silver Hand were founded after the First War, and by the end of the Second War they were renown across Lordaeron. Tirion Fordring became a lord of the lands of Hearthglen, and was much-loved by the residents there. However, upon an unfortunate happening, he stumbled across a lone elderly orc named Eitrigg that lived in an abandoned tower. As a paladin, he naturally engaged the orc in combat until a chunk of the tower collapsed on him. Tirion awoke later back at home and safe. The monstrous orc, a soul-less devil of a creature from another world, had saved his life. Realizing this he sought out Eitrigg again and confronted him. Eitrigg explained that he was not part of the Horde. He abandoned it after he became disillusioned by how obsessed they had become with dark magics and demons. Eitrigg explained that the Horde used to have a rich heritage steeped in shamanism and honor. Tirion could see that the old orc was honest and had no hostile intent. Eitrigg simply wanted to live out his remaining years in quiet isolation. Tirion swore on his honor that in exchange for saving his life, he would help to save Eitrigg’s, and would keep his secret safe.
Of course, honor has no place in politics. Tirion’s second, an ambitious and sordid paladin named Barthilas (Yes, THAT Barthilas) wasn’t convinced by Tirion’s story that the orc had been dealt with. Barthilas hated orcs, and much like the larger portion of the human population after two whole wars, saw them as brutish bloodthirsty beasts and nothing else. His opinion was fueled by his own personal tragedy. He had lost both parents to an orc attack during the Second War. However, Barthilas was only ordained as a paladin at the very end of that war and never actually saw battle. You could say the whole situation left him angry, prideful, and with a slightly skewed view on the entire situation.
Barthilas called in Saidan Dathrohan to investigate the whole situation. As another one of the founding members of the Silver Hand, he was straight with Tirion and told him that he trusted him. They were friends after all. However, rumors of a new Horde stirring in the south (led by some escaped orc slave) had forced his hand, and he couldn’t overlook such a potential threat. Dathrohan and his men went out into the woods to investigate along with Barthilas, and naturally found Eitrigg alive and well. They attempted to detain him, when Tirion intervened. Tirion, who swore to protect Eitrigg on his honor, did the unthinkable and attacked Dathrohan and his men, committing treason to save the life of an orc.
Tirion was to put on trial, presided over by some of the most powerful figures in the Alliance: Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, Arch-Mage Antonidas, Archbishop Alonsus Faol, and Prince Arthas Menethil. Before the trial began, Tirion’s best friend and captain of Hearthglen’s guard, Arden, and his wife, Karanda, begged and pleaded for Tirion to renounce any oath he had sworn to Eitrigg for the sake of his people, for the love of his life, and his son: Taelan. Tirion refused. He would not sacrifice his honor and break the oath. Arden was disheartened and Karanda furious, and all that Tirion could do was apologize. The trial itself drew a crowd. This was not a simple criminal trial. Tirion was a well-known war hero or the Alliance, a legendary paladin, and a lord of a principality being tried for treason. It created even a greater uproar when Tirion began the trial with pleading guilty.
As the trial proceeded, both Dathrohan and Barthilas gave their testimony. Barthilas’ being openly mocking of Tirion’s status and calling him a filthy traitor. In the end, Uther the Lightbringer offered Tirion a choice. A full pardon for Tirion to disavow his oath to Eitrigg and reaffirm his loyalty to the Alliance. Tirion was tempted. It would be easy. Just abandon the orc to its fate and he could go home happily with his wife and son. However, living without honor is something Tirion could not do. He told Uther and the court that he would gladly reaffirm his loyalty to the Alliance, because the Alliance always had his loyalty, but he would not disavow his oath to Eitrigg. Those in attendance were enraged, they wanted blood, but the court would not have it. While Eitrigg was sentenced to death without trial, Tirion would not share his fate. Tirion was to be stripped of title and his lands (Lordship of Hearthglen was passed to an ecstatic Barthilas) and was to be exiled from Lordaeron for all time. On top of that, Tirion was going to be excommunicated.
Excommunication is a harsh punishment used by the Church of the Holy Light to strip that person of all their light given powers and abilities. It essentially severs you from the Holy Light. It is also a point of contestation between me and a few other lore nuts like Rades of Orcish Army Knife. See Rades and others have debated with me that excommunication doesn’t actually have any real power over the person’s connection with the Light. That it’s just a ceremony that strips one of their confidence to contact the Light and thus unable to use its power. However, the text describes Tirion as set in his way and sure he was in the right until his connection from the Light is severed and he feels that darkness falls over him. After he loses that power, then he despairs. If you go by the text as written, Tirion is cut off from the Light, and as excommunication is described as a rare ritual that every paladin lives in fear of, I imagine it’s fairly serious. Anything else is a fan theory. Maybe solid fan theory, but still fan theory, until Blizz states otherwise. (Which they might. Who knows with Blizz, right?)
The reason that discussion is important is because after Tirion was excommunicated and exiled, he came back to save Eitrigg who was slated to be executed in Stratholme. Although Tirion has been exiled, and could face serious punishment for this, he rides into Stratholme and facing Barthilas and others in order to try to save Eitrigg’s life or die trying. I honestly wouldn’t be too surprised if Tirion was expecting to die in his attempt. However, at the same time a large force of orcs arrive in Stratholme. Led by that same escaped slave, Thrall, they too have come to free Eitrigg. Thanks to the distraction, Tirion manages to get Eitrigg out of the city, but Eitrigg suffers a mortal wound during the escape. To save Eitrigg, Tirion begs and pleads to the Holy Light for the power to save this orc. At first it doesn’t work. He doesn’t feel the Light’s warmth filling him. However, as he continues to try, he begins to feel it, and ultimately heals Eitrigg’s wound.
This is where Rades’ point about confidence comes in. That Tirion must dig deep within himself to call upon the Light’s power, and obviously excommunication cannot actually sever the connection. However, Tirion is the only person we have any record of this happening with. We are told that excommunication is rare, but not that it had never been used before. If they ever regained their powers, I assume someone in the Church would have heard of it. Maybe? The only actual canon example we can point to of another character losing their connection to the Holy Light is Nobundo in ‘Unbroken’. He loses his connection after being attacked by Grom Hellscream during the fall of Shattrath. It is unclear whether it is some demonic power used by Grom that caused it, or whatever foul red mist had settled over the battlefield (which was probably demonic in nature as well) but one thing is for certain, Nobundo never regains his ability to connect with the Holy Light. Fortunately, he becomes the first draenei shaman (okay, he was a Broken at that point).
Really, it’s up to interpretation. There is nothing that strictly invalidates Rades’ theory, but if you go by the text as written (which is all we have), it does take some interpretation to reach that end. If you strictly go by what we are told, Tirion overcame excommunication by some means. Even if it was simply an issue of confidence, it is an extraordinary feat that we canonically have not seen or been told has ever been repeated. That’s saying something in my opinion.
Now let’s skip ahead a few years and one war later, Lordaeron has fallen and is either under the rule of the Forsaken, the Scourge or, in the case of Tirion’s old home in Hearthglen, the Scarlet Crusade. Even more interesting to dear old Tirion (who has fallen on hard times and is now living in a shack down by the river), is that the Highlord of the Scarlet Crusade’s operation in Hearthglen is Taelan Fordring – Tirion’s son. It’s safe to assume that Taelan had a bit of a strange relationship with his father. Especially, since Karanda told their son that his father died after Tirion was exiled. All that young Taelan had to remember his father by was the hammer Tirion gave him and a letter. The letter in question was left to Taelan after Tirion was sentenced and contained the quote at the beginning of this post. I will not hesitate to tell you that I, Vrykerion, will cry every time I read that part of the story. Tirion tries to explain to Taelan that he will hear about the terrible things his father did, that his father was a traitor, but in the end Tirion wants his son to know that he did it as a matter of honor. Because while you can have your lands, titles, rank and wealth taken – only you can take away your own honor. He ends the letter by saying that Taelan’s actions will be Tirion’s redemption, and that he will always love his son.
Perhaps that is why when the irrational Prince of Lordaeron disbanded the Silver Hand, and the situation with the scourge grew more dire, that Taelan decided to join the Scarlet Crusade. To anyone who did not know of the madness that dwelt in the heart of the Crusade’s hierarchy, they seemed to be doing the right thing (at least in the beginning) and trying to defend Lordaeron from the threat of the undead. After all, his old teacher Isillien (now Grand Inquisitor Isillien) was part of the central core of the Scarlet Crusade and Taelan trusted him, how could this organization devoted to saving his homeland not be the right route to take?
Tirion however (in his shack DOWN BY THE RIVER! Sorry, that joke is really funny to me.) had seen a completely different side of what the Scarlet Crusade was up to. He found adventurers that would help find three items for him: The hammer he gave Taelan as a present that was laid in Tirion’s false grave, the standard of the Order of the Silver Hand that Taelan threw down during his last stand at Northdale when he renounced everything he held dear, and finally a painting made of Tirion, Karanda and Taelan at Caer Darrow where they used to spend their vacations. After the heroes reclaimed these items, Tirion arranged a deal with Myranda the Hag to cast an illusion on the heroes so they could infiltrate Hearthglen, give Taelan the acquired items and tell him the truth – that his father is alive and waiting for him to come home.
Taelan, realizing that much of what he had been told through his life and especially by the Crusade had been a lie, decided to follow the heroes out of Hearthglen. However, as he proceeded on the road out-of-town he was attacked by Grand Inquisitor Isillien who claimed that he had glorious plans for Taelan but the failure of the Fordring bloodline was bound to catch up to him sooner or later. They battled as the heroes kept additional Scarlet reinforcements from joining the fray but ultimately, Isillien was the victor and Taelan Fordring was dead. That is when Tirion arrives. Seeing his son laying dead at Isillien feet, he attacked the Grand Inquisitor and killed him. Taking the body of his son in his hands, Tirion swore an oath just as he did to Eitrigg all those years ago:
“Too long have I sat idle, gripped in this haze… this malaise, lamenting what could have been… what should have been. Your death will not have been in vain, Taelan. A new Order is born on this day… an Order which will dedicate itself to extinguishing the evil that plagues this world. An evil that cannot hide behind politics and pleasantries. This I promise… this I vow…” (Source)
On that day the ground work was laid on what would be known as the Argent Crusade, and the long march to Icecrown Citadel began…